Cornwall Council has the power to protect trees where they:

  • make an important contribution to public visual amenity
  • are considered to be at risk

Public visual amenity can be described as a visual benefit to, or enjoyment by the public.

A joint statement by the Environment and Planning & Sustainable Development Services was issued in September 2020.  This note provides guidance on the proper use of Tree Preservation Orders.

On this page you can find out how trees are dealt with in the planning system and what it means if your tree is protected.

Identify protected trees

Before you carry out any work on a tree, please find out if the tree is:

  • protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)
  • within a conservation area

You can do this by checking the online map below.

It is a criminal offence to prune, cut down or damage a protected tree without following the correct procedures. This can result in substantial fines. 

View the Tree Preservation Order Interactive Map

Green dots relate to individual trees, whereas the green shading will relate to a group, area or woodland. 

Purple hatching shows where there is a Conservation Area.

The mapping overlay shows the position of the trees at the time the order was made.

Please note that changes including felling and replanting may have occurred since this time.

Although the system is updated, new Orders will not automatically become visible on the map. Therefore a new Order may be in force, but not viewable on the system.

We advise anyone using the system to take a dated screen shot as evidence of their check.

If you have any queries please contact

Please read this useful guide about tree preservation orders and tree protection. This has been produced by the Communities and Local Government Department.

Outside a garden, the felling of more than five cubic metres of timber may require a felling license from the Forestry Commission. They can be contacted on 01392 834242. 

Apply for consent (TPOs) or give notice (conservation areas) to work on protected trees

It is important that you read these documents before completing the form:

Apply online to work on protected trees

There is also a printable version of this form: apply to work on protected trees.

Applicants should provide a detailed description of the proposed works and set out why they wish to carry out the work.

Pruning should be measured as a distance, however, when crown thinning is proposed, it should be measured as a percentage. Examples are given below:

  • Reduce the height from 15 metres to 13 metres.
  • Reduce the spread of the crown to 5 metres (measured from the stem) on its southern side only.
  • Thin the crown by 15 %.
  • Raise the crown to a height of 3 metres above ground level.

In addition to the application form, it is also useful to include photographs of the trees with the proposed work clearly marked on them and this may result in your Application being determined more quickly.  A plan showing the location of the tree/s is also likely to be necessary

Decision timescales and advice

The Council has 6 weeks to make a decision about Conservation Area notices. Once registered the Council has 8 weeks to make a decision about TPO applications.

An Officer of the Council may visit the property once an application has been made but they are not able to provide pre-application advice.

If you would like further advice you can speak to an Arboriculturalist. The Arboricultural Association produces a list of approved contractors and consultants that you can contact.

Trees in conservation areas

Within a conservation area, trees are subject to statutory protection if they have a stem diameter which is bigger than 75 mm. This is when measured at a height of 1.5 metres above ground level on the main stem.

Before you carry out any work to a tree you need to give the council 6 weeks prior notice of your intention to do so.

The notice can be given by:

This allows the council an opportunity to make a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) if we wish to prevent the works from being undertaken as we are not able to issue a refusal.

Tree Preservation Orders 

Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) may apply to any individual tree, group, areas of trees or woodlands that make an important contribution to a public visual amenity.  

Before any work can take place to a tree that is subject to a tree preservation order, you must apply for consent to carry out work to the tree. This can be achieved by visiting the Planning Portal website.

Alternatively, you can download a printable copy of the application form.

To find out if a tree, or group of trees, is protected please check on the online map found under Protected Trees.

New Tree Preservation Orders

The council is able to make new TPO’s at any time if it feels that important trees are under threat. 

The council has the freedom to decide when trees are important and when it would be necessary to protect them by undertaking an amenity assessment.

The appropriate test for making a TPO is if the loss of or damage to the tree (or trees) would cause significant harm to a public space.

Individuals and organisations can request that the Council consider making a TPO. They can do this by completing the ‘Request a Tree Preservation Order’ form.

Dead and dangerous trees

Not all work to be carried out on protected trees is required to follow the normal procedures. This can be for either a Tree Preservation Order or Conservation Areas.

The most common exceptions are:

  • the cutting down of dead or dangerous trees
  • the removal of dead or dangerous branches of otherwise healthy or safe trees

For more information about exceptions please read these documents:

You may need to prune or cut down a tree that presents an urgent and serious safety risk or cut down a dead tree. However, before you do, you should complete a dead and dangerous tree notice form, giving the Council as much prior notice as is reasonably practicable. Alternatively, you can email to let them know about the work that you are planning to do. You must give as much notice as possible.

Sometimes, the work is so urgent that it is not possible to provide notice before hand. In such cases, please read the dead and dangerous tree advice note for information on how to continue.

You may wish to cut down a dying tree or remove dying branches from a tree. If so, you will now need to submit a full tree works application to the planning team. This is because carrying out this work is no longer regarded as an Exception.

Pests and diseases affecting trees

The following information may be helpful in identifying diseases and other problems which may affect trees. However it is not an exhaustive list and if you have concerns you should consult with a competent Arboriculturalist.

  • Phytophthora
  • Decay Fungi on Trees
  • Sycamore Leaf Spot
  • Ash Dieback

Exempt works by statutory undertakers

Statutory undertakers are companies and agencies. They have legal rights to carry out certain works. Certain exceptions to tree protection apply to statutory undertakers. An example is companies that provide electricity and contractors working on their behalf. Their exemptions are as follows:

Trees can be cut down, topped, lopped or uprooted by or at the request of a statutory undertaker without the need to seek prior approval from the Council. This is where the land on which the tree sits is operational land and the work is necessary -

  • so they can work safely
  • in connection with the inspection, repair or renewal of any sewers:
    • mains
    • pipes
    • cables
    • other apparatus of the statutory undertaker
  • to enable them to carry out development permitted by or under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995

In these circumstances the necessary work may continue without consent from, Cornwall Council.  It will be up to the statutory undertaker or their contractor to demonstrate that the work was an exception if challenged and they would be expected to work within the remit of BS3998-Tree Works-Recommendations.

In some instances, trees have high amenity value and the proposed works will have a significant impact on them. In such cases, the statutory undertaker may discuss options with the Council.

Trees and development sites

For new developments the Council has a duty to make arrangements for the protection and planting of trees.  Developments should be designed to ensure that existing and new trees compliment the development.

Where trees are present either on or on land adjacent to a potential development site the planning application should be accompanied by a tree survey. This is written in accordance with the British Standard 5837, trees in relation to design, demolition and construction – Recommendations.

When designing a layout where trees are nearby the following factors must be addressed:

  • Important trees are kept wherever possible.
  • Future growth of the trees are predicted and planned for.
  • Trees which are kept can be protected within a Construction Exclusion Zone.

All development and enabling works must occur outside the exclusion zones.

Enough space will need to be made available for the development to be carried out. This space should not impact on the exclusion zones. For example for:

  • access
  • scaffolding site huts
  • plant and machinery
  • storage

The new properties will need to be in harmony with the retained and newly planted trees. This is so that the new occupants are not caused unreasonable inconvenience. For example, by shade or overhanging branches.

TPO's and planning conditions may be used in connection with a successful planning application to ensure that important trees are protected.

Developers are encouraged to speak to the Council before submitting a planning application.  If the development has implications for trees it is helpful for everyone involved that these issues are identified and where possible resolved as early as possible.

Trees and planning - managing and increasing trees

The Council must make arrangements for the protection and planting of trees for new developments.  The design should ensure existing and new trees compliment the development.  You can find out how the planning service can manage and increase trees in Cornwall using this link: Trees and planning

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